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Hospital for Special Care Advances Autism Care with New Expanded Facility, Programs

October 1, 2020

Hospital for Special Care (HFSC), a nationally-recognized leader in care for children and adolescents living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), advanced the continuum of services available to Connecticut families today, opening a new 18,000 square foot, $13 million inpatient and partial hospital facility on its New Britain campus.  HFSC’s inpatient unit, first opened in 2015, is the only inpatient resource specifically designed for children diagnosed with ASD in the state and expands capacity to 12 beds.  The new Partial Hospital Program will also be the first of its kind in the state when it opens in January.

State and local officials joined donors, community leaders and other key stakeholders on site under the new building’s outdoor pavilion for safe and socially distanced open house events today.  State Representative Cathie Abercrombie, co-chair of the Autism Advisory Council, helped cut the ribbon and read a proclamation from Governor Lamont’s office.

Above: HFSC President and CEO Lynn Ricci cuts the ribbon for new Autism facility with Representatives Cathie Abercrombie and William Petit, Senator Gennaro Bizzarro and other guests.

The increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities fueled the need for improved diagnostic, educational and behavioral services. According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 59 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder. The complex needs of this population overwhelm the capacity of families, acute care facilities, schools and traditional human service providers.

The need for autism specific care and services is overwhelming, impacting children from every community and every socio-economic status. Each day multiple inpatient referrals wait for a single available bed at HFSC – with every one of those families either in the emergency room or cycling in and out of the emergency room.

“As the need for these services has continued to grow, and continues to exceed the capacity of existing systems of care here in Connecticut as well as in other states, we have strengthened our commitment to increase our unique continuum of critically needed services by expanding both space and programming,” said Lynn Ricci, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We have served as the State of Connecticut’s key collaborative partner, and we’ve become a national leader in autism care, uniting clinical expertise with both public and private resources to develop a highly-effective, value-based continuum of care to support children and their families.”

“HFSC’s expansion speaks to the rapidly escalating need for this kind of holistic, tailored, and coordinated approach to caring for autistic children, even as they transition to young adulthood. We need many more such programs across the country, especially ones that are this respectful of patients’ and families’ preferences in how they design the approach to care,” said Hoangmai Pham, MD, President, Institute for Exceptional Care.

HFSC’s autism services increase stability for children impacted by autism at home and in their community, teach functional skills for daily living, reduce self-harming/destructive behaviors and reduce family and parental stress associated with the pressures of raising a child with autism.

With a $10 million investment from the State of Connecticut Bond Commission, the support of key stakeholders and community philanthropists HFSC has raised most of the funds needed to complete this project.  The hospital’s Superheroes for Autism campaign however still faces a $325,000 gap, largely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundraising remains.

HFSC broke ground on the project at the end of October 2019 and the work continued throughout the pandemic.  “Our project team, including Downes Construction Company and Kaestle Boos Associates, helped us complete this project six weeks ahead of schedule,” said Jeff Lawton, Vice President, Facilities and Hospitality Services. The construction and service expansion initiative includes:

  • An 18,000 square foot stand-alone building with a dedicated entrance for patients and families, a dedicated parking area, and improved outdoor recreational space.
  • Increased access to inpatient care from eight to 12 beds – all in private rooms. The additional beds will increase patient capacity by 20 to 25 percent per year, or an additional 55 children and youth annually, and reduce the number of children “stuck” in emergency rooms.
  • A first-of-its-kind Partial Hospitalization Program to provide a step down/step up solution not currently available in Connecticut for more than 75 youth per year. This unique service will provide effective supports for children to transition successfully back into the community following an inpatient stay and help others remain safely at home without requiring an inpatient level of care.
  • New skilled employment opportunities in autism care.

Superheroes for Autism:  Closing the Gap

The hospital launched a Superheroes for Autism fundraising campaign, inspired by a young patient, last year, with a goal of $3 million.  The campaign had secured $2.5 million in contributions when the community phase of the campaign kicked off in late February with the help of hundreds of foundations, corporations and individuals including the superheroes listed below.  The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on fundraising, leaving the campaign $325,000 of its goal.

“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped us get this far. I’m confident that we will be able to close the gap – but we can’t do it alone,” said Ricci.

  • The Robert C. Vance Savings Foundation
  • American Savings Foundation
  • William and Ellen Macristy Foundation
  • The Hearst Foundations
  • The Petit Family Foundation
  • Stanley Black & Decker
  • Community Foundation of Greater New Britain
  • Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority
  • Richard P. Garmany Fund of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
  • Benjamin A. Hawley New Britain Day Nursery Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain
  • Downes Construction

Newsroom

Media Contacts

  • Wendy DeAngelo
    Vice President, Development and Communications
    860-832-6215
    wdeangelo@hfsc.org

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